HP Envy 17t (2020) review

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HP Envy 17t (2020) review

The HP Envy 17t is another reminder that big laptops are back, and not just for gaming. Apple now sells a 16-inch MacBook Pro, forever replacing the 15-inch models in its lineup. Dell has come out with a new XPS 17 for the first time since 2011. Even LG’s Gram laptop line includes a shockingly light 17-inch version.

The Envy 17t isn’t a new product—HP’s been selling it for years—but the surge in similar models partly stems from advancements in display technology that allow for larger screens in smaller bodies. It’s also an acknowledgement of the workhorse role into which PCs have comfortably settled. Even in a world of big-screen phones, increasingly capable tablets, and ever-lighter ultraportable notebooks, jumbo laptops still fill a unique role for getting things done.

That’s certainly true of the Envy 17t. Just be aware that outfitting yourself with a 4K display this large comes with some big downsides, especially if you don’t want to spend more for better performance.

This review is part of our ongoing roundup of the best laptops. Go there for information on competing products and how we tested them.

HP Envy 17t: Tech specs

Our HP Envy 17t review unit carries a list price of $1,590 from HP.com and has the following specs:

  • Display: 17-inch, 3840×2160 IPS non-touch display
  • CPU: Intel Core i7-1065G7 CPU
  • Memory: 16 GB DDR4-3200 RAM
  • GPU: Nvidia GeForce MX330 GPU with 2 GB VRAM
  • Storage: 512 GB PCIe NVMe solid state drive
  • Left-side ports: USB-A 3.2 Gen 1 sleep-and-charge port, HDMI, headphone jack, USB-C 3.2 Gen 1 port
  • Right-side ports: Two USB-A 3.2 Gen 1 ports, SD card slot
  • Webcam: 720p, with software-based privacy shutter
  • Networking: Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0 support
  • Dimensions: 15.71 x 10.2 x 0.76 inches
  • Weight: 6.02 pounds (6.88 pounds with power brick)

HP’s website has some additional configurations, ranging in price from $1,050 to $1,980. An Intel Core i5-1035G1 CPU is available, and you can upgrade the MX330 graphics card to 4GB of VRAM. Memory is configurable down to 8GB or up to 32GB, and you can opt for either a 1TB SSD or a combo 256GB SSD with a 1TB hard drive. You can also get a 1080p display, with or without a touchscreen, but there’s no option for 4K with a touch panel.

hpenvy17right Jared Newman / IDG

The HP Envy 17t’s port selection includes the rare full-sized SD card slot.

Despite the size, this isn’t a laptop for serious gaming or heavy-duty media production. The GeForce MX330 graphics card exists mainly to support the 4K display, while the Intel Ice Lake CPU matches what you’ll find in high-end ultrathin laptops, such as Lenovo’s C940 Yoga 14 or HP’s Spectre x360 13t. If you need a real powerhouse, seek out a laptop with Intel’s H-Series processors and better discrete GPUs, such as Dell’s new XPS 17 or Lenovo’s C940 Yoga 15.

The port selection is pretty nice, though. HP takes advantage of the extra space that a 17-inch screen affords to provide a full-sized SD card slot—a rarity on laptops these days—and an HDMI port that can output 4K at 60 frames per second to compatible monitors or televisions. One might only nitpick the lack of Thunderbolt 3 or a faster USB-C port, as the one on board has a maximum 10Gbps transfer speed.

One other notable perk: The Envy 17t has room for a hard disk drive, though you’ll have to pry off the laptop’s rubber feet and deal with some hex screws to access the internals.

Design and display

Like other laptops in the Envy lineup, HP’s Envy 17t comes in a light-gray aluminum chassis, with sharp-edged sides and a slightly raised palm rest. It also has the same the diamond-shaped pattern on its Bang & Olufsen speaker grille, which, combined with HP’s extra-large keycap lettering, gives the Envy 17t a sharp, distinct appearance.

But unlike other Envy laptops, the Envy 17t is extremely heavy and bulky, weighing over six pounds without a charger. The bezels arounds its display, while narrow, aren’t as slim as those of Dell’s new XPS 17. This laptop is meant for sitting on your desk, not for toting around—a point reinforced by the drop-hinge that props up the laptop’s body when it’s folded open. On a flat surface, this design improves airflow and makes typing comfier, but on your lap the two rubber stoppers would dig into your legs.

hpenvy17lift Jared Newman / IDG

The HP Envy 17t’s drop hinge is great for desks, but not so nice for laps.

Still, the 4K display itself looks great, and perhaps because of the MX330 GPU inside, the Envy 17t exhibited none of the choppy animations or janky scrolling that plague some 4K laptops with integrated graphics. While the screen doesn’t support Dolby Vision HDR, we measured a peak brightness of 387 nits, which is admirable for a laptop of this size.

Keyboard and trackpad

Here’s one unambiguous advantage of a 17-inch laptop: The keyboard makes no major sacrifices in size, and it easily fits in a number pad. The keys are on the bouncy side, but not at all wobbly—putting pressure on just the corner of any key causes the whole thing to depress. The keyboard also affords plenty of travel and gives off a slightly satisfying click. There’s hardly any flex in the laptop’s body when typed on. The only notable omission is a right Control key—HP put its fingerprint reader where the key would normally be—but it’s a stellar keyboard overall.

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